The Ducks re-assigned Luca Sbisa, though the team has yet to announce if they have found a European team to lend him to or if Lethbridge has found another team to take the "old" defenseman in a trade.
Over the weekend Coach Carlyle told the OC Register that the team's struggling performance was the primary reason for moving Sbisa. He went on to say that playing a year at the Ducks' current stress level could shorten Sbisa's career by ten years.
Daniel, were the Ducks right or wrong to move Sbisa and why?
I think this is a big mistake. I think some fans, and maybe some pundits, thought that Sbisa would step in and solidify a bottom pair or earn quality minutes with Niedermayer. Sbisa definitely has the tools to be a great defenseman. I can understand wanting to bring him along slowly and play him in situations where he can be successful, but he is a very unique defenseman. The guy loves to attack the net and play on the rush. That means he needs a stay at home partner who can cover for the risks he takes. Makes you miss Sean O'Donnell a little. That also means he needs to play at the NHL level and develop his vision. The game moves faster at this level. I know he wasn't finishing a lot of his rushes, but he wasn't making a lot of mistakes either. Combine this with the unavoidable fact that the only guarantees for next year's blue line are Whitney and Eminger, and the need for extra experience will be blinding. Sbisa could have gotten it this year.
Matt Clark will probably be NHL ready next year, but Wiz is going to price himself off the team. We talk about stealing Duncan Keith from Chicago, but you can't count on that. Sbisa needs to get seasoned in the NHL so that he can help anchor the blueline next year. The free agent market is going to be thin, so I don't see us importing a ton of solid or dominant help. Maybe it would have been tough for a while, or maybe I'm a just a fan, but the Ducks can't stay this bad all year. If they would have kept Sbisa, then he would have survived a tough stretch and come out on the other side all the better for it. I think the Ducks are trying to do something wild without trading somebody. We might not feel it this year, but we will for seasons to come as we struggle to bring experience and consistency to the blueline. Then it won't matter how athletic Hiller is; he'll be left to the whims of a weak defensive corps.
I don't want to discount Carlyle's experience here. He's certainly seen defensemen brought along too fast in his playing and coaching careers, maybe as recently as Eminger in Washington. And, in all the discussion of Sbisa's age barring him from assignment to an American pro league, I think we forget what "19" actually means. Mikkelson is three years Sbisa's senior, and the 22 year-old's confidence seems to waver from game to game, leading to a level of inconsistency that may mean we're even bringing him along too fast.
But I can't help but call this a mistake. I watch 19 year-olds like Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian really find their stride in the NHL, and I can't help but wonder why we can't afford Sbisa that same opportunity. Yes, expectations are higher on the Ducks, Carlyle has shifted to more strenuous practices and he expects to see his 5-7 defensemen competing to earn their 12 minutes. But why would that be detrimental for Sbisa, who proved he could play no less than 39 games (5 more than Mikkelson) on a rough team with playoff expectations last year?
Maybe I had a little too much faith in Sbisa, but I blame that on Murray, who claimed that this was a point in Sbisa's career where he had to "stand up," that the Ducks would give him no less than the pressure of a secured spot in the top pairings and the young defenseman would have to capitalize on that opportunity. Now, the Ducks seem the ones afraid to stand up.